Life took yet another twist and turn this morning. I am so tired that I can’t see straight, but feel that I will burst if I don’t write. After Mom was returned from the ER to St. Martin’s last night around midnight, something changed. She began to lose clarity, her mind fixating on hot soup and cracked ice in a vicious cycle of repetition.
I dropped my best friend Diane off at the airport, and headed home to pick up Mom’s clean laundry before going back to St. Martin’s. I stopped by Sonic to pick up a chocolate shake for her, but before the server came to take my order, my cell phone rang…St. Martin’s. Lynn, one of our angels at St. Martin’s was on the line, telling me that my mother’s situation had changed drastically. I told her I was two minutes away and would be right there.
As soon as I saw Lynn’s face, I knew this was serious. Tears immediately began streaming down my face as I approached her. She took the laundry basket full of Mom’s clothes and asked me to join her in Mom’s room. My heart felt like lead, and it was like I was walking to the gallows. When we went into the room, other nurses and staff were there. Mom recognized me and frantically waved for me to come to her. She began repeating the same phrases over and over, “all I wanted was some hot soup, and nobody would give me hot soup.” “They wouldn’t help me, they left me in a dark room “, etc. my mother, who has always been sharp as a tack, had snapped.
This disorientation continued, scaring the bejesus out of me. Mom’s favorite helper, Jackie, was by her side, soothing her, and the nurse put her arms around me. The Chaplain came in and tried to pray with mom, but Mom yelled out, “Where’s Denise? I want my daughter!”, and wouldn’t calm down until she was holding my hand. Her color was terrible, and she continued to look wild-eyed and talk about the hot soup and crushed ice. I tried to soothe her and smile at her, but the sobs bubbled up and the tears spilled over. I felt completely helpless to do anything that would help her.
Lynn told me that they thought the issue was related to oxygen depletion, and said that Mom had refused to go to the hospital for help. She needed me to make the decision, and it needed to happen quickly. Mom again argued vehemently, she didn’t want to go back, she just wanted hot soup. I looked at Lynn and shook my head yes- let’s take her. Mom needed help fast, as it was obvious her health was spiraling out of control. The ambulance was called, and once again Mom’s room was full of medics, full of activity.
I hugged each of the nurses who had been so kind since Mom arrived at St. Martin’s and told them I hoped Mom would be coming back to them. The Chaplain kindly helped me gather a few things that would help Mom feel more comfortable, and walked me to my car. She encouraged me to sit for five minutes and center myself before trying to drive…and to watch for red lights, since I was so distraught. I followed the ambulance carrying Mom, calling Dan along the way to let him know what was happening.
If last night’s trip to the ER was nightmarish, today’s experience was hellish. Hearing her cries of pain each time they jostled her, as they inserted the catheter, just went all through me. She was still wild-eyed, constantly asking me not to leave her, asking for hot soup, asking for crushed ice. They did more X-rays, more tests, and found that her gasses were very out of kilter and that there had possibly been some sort of heart episode. A BiPap machine was ordered, as the traditional method of giving her oxygen was not helping her.
I stood by her, stroking her hair, kissing her forehead, telling her I loved her. She asked me if she was going to die, and I told her that I didn’t know, but that I would be here for her no matter what. When I kissed her again, she smiled and told me my nose was cold, so I finished with our usual banter, “cold nose, warm heart, dirty feet, no sweetheart” that she had chanted to me since I was little (usually with ‘cold hands’). I was so happy to see her smile broadly at that. So many memories came flooding through as I looked at her. I felt like a little girl again, scared, alone, wanting Mom to make everything better. But those days are long gone, and I have to be the one doing the comforting, trying to make things better for her.
There are so many things I still have left to ask her, so many more stories I want to hear her tell me. I thought of silly things; how did she make biscuits? How did she make the wonderful merengue for her chocolate pies? What did she want to be when she was a little girl? Things I should have already asked her in my fifty-one years with her, but for some reason haven’t. I imagined my life without my mother, and the tears came again. How do you say goodbye to the one person who will always love you more than anyone could?
I called my sister and could barely speak at first. We cried together some, and then I put the phone next to Mom’s ear so that Linda could tell her she loved her. It about broke my heart to hear Mom struggle to breathe out, “I…love…you….Linda.” If I step back and try to look at this whole experience, it is interesting to see how things fall away, leaving only the really important things, the important people. Life crystallizes into small moments of such large importance. You gather those moments close to you, those people you love become your foundation, and you just hold on tight. One moment at a time, as looking too far ahead is terrifying.
We were in the ER for over seven long hours. Dan came to sit with us, and I felt so grateful for his calm and loving presence. We stood on either side of Mom, holding her hands, and Mom asked us again if she was dying, asked if we were telling her goodbye. Each time I would look into Dan’s sweet brown eyes, and tears would well up yet again. Finally, a room was ready for Mom and she was moved to the Step Down unit. As I followed her bed down the long corridors of St. Vincent’s, I thought about how familiar I’m becoming with this place, and how I wished that wasn’t the case.
I am hoping the new day will bring improvements, that Mom will be able to return to live at St. Martin’s soon. There is so much to do, so many details to take care of. After being away from home for a week, I ache to be home with Dan and the animals, but I can’t imagine not being by Mom’s side to help her weather this storm. I don’t know what will happen, what the days ahead will bring. This time is sacred, and I am doing my best to honor my mother and be there for her in whatever way she needs me to be. I remain so grateful for the many angels who have appeared to help us along the way. We are truly blessed.